I was one of those little girls who always wanted to be a mother and saw it as the greatest calling a woman could have in her life. My husband and I even named our first child before we were ever even married — although we had to wait three years to give it to our firstborn son, Sean Patrick, who only lived a few hours.
But God — my two favorite words in the Bible — was faithful to my calling and the desire of my heart and later blessed us with two beautiful children, three precious grandchildren and (so far) one wonderful great grandson. What a blessing they have been, and continue to be, in my life!
While I was pregnant, I read something that really stuck with me — “Motherhood is a partnership with God!” That scared me to death at first, but it has surely proven to be true, even though one of the partners was woefully inadequate.
My Abba Father has often reminded me of our partnership through the years, and it always seemed to be at a time when I needed His guidance most.
Of course, God gave me everything I needed to meet the physical needs of my son and daughter and taught me how to use the things He provided in the best possible way. He also reinforced His admonition to “train up a child in the way he/she should go” and made sure that I kept my children in church and tried my best to live a faithful life before them. Although I failed miserably at times, I hope my children saw my love for the Lord.
But my “partnership with God” went even further than that as He guided me through the years. It would be impossible to list in this short article every lesson He taught me, but the following are five of the more unusual ones that have meant the most to me:
#1 Never let your children doubt your love for them.
Perhaps the reason this one came to my mind first is because I did doubt my mother’s love when I was growing up. I know she tried, but Mother battled some mental issues that were never diagnosed but were probably bipolar, which meant that in her eyes, I could be a wonderful daughter one minute and an awful one the next for no apparent reason. I was never sure of her love for me, but I vowed that my children would always know that I loved them just like I always know that my Abba loves me.
Over and over in Scripture, God declares His love for His children. One of my favorites is Jeremiah 31:3: “ . . . I have loved you with an everlasting love.” His love doesn’t depend on my behavior, and there is nothing I can do that would cause Him to love me less and nothing I can do to make Him love me more. He just loves me, full out, with nothing held back. I feel that love every day, and I know that if I don’t feel close to Him, I’m the one who moved, not Him.
As their mother, that’s the way I want my children to feel about my love — that it is secure, safe and everlasting.
#2 Don’t always take your child’s side.
I know that “goes against the grain,” but we have to be careful not to condone bad behavior just because it’s our kid. God never says sin is OK, and neither should we. Instead, He confronts His children in love and shows us a better way.
When my son Bobby was little, he got into trouble once at school and he was definitely “in the wrong.” When I corrected him, he asked, “Mom, why don’t you take my side?” I told him that if he was right, I’d be the last one standing to defend him; but if he wasn’t, I’d still always fight for him, even if the one I had to fight for him was him!” What kind of mother would I be if I let him continue in sin? As my partner, God doesn’t do it for me, and I can’t do it for my child.
“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6)
#3 Don’t lay “guilt trips” on your children.
Our Father never uses manipulation to get us to do what He wants us to do, and mothers shouldn’t do it either. He just tells us what He wants and needs us to do, then leaves it up to us to do it or not and suffer the consequences.
This lesson is especially true when dealing with what Mammaw used to call “children, full growed!” I don’t want my children to do something for me or with me because they have to but because they want to. Guilt should have no part in a mother/child relationship.
#4 Always be available to your child, but don’t always bail them out.
Another “saying” I heard one time is this: “If you raise children to depend on you, you’ve done a bad job raising them. If you raise children to depend on God and themselves, you’ve done a great job raising them.” Would I help my child if he or she asked? Of course! But if they asked too often or asked for something they could provide for themselves, we’d have a good talk first.
My children are two years apart in age, and they got married six weeks apart. One of the things I said to them was, “You’re only ready to get married if you can fully support yourself. Otherwise, you’re just ‘playing house,’ and Mama don’t pay for grown-up games.” That was decades ago, and they have never asked me for a penny.
My children know I’d give them my last dime if they really needed it, but it has never come to that, and I’m very proud of them for standing on their own two feet, depending only on each other and God.
“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippinas 4:19)
#5 Their rules for their children are my rules for their children. Do I spoil my grandchildren? Maybe . . . OK, lying is ugly and “God don’t like ugly” — so OK, yes; always have and always will. My son-in-love once told me, “Mama D, it takes us a good three weeks to de-program the kids after they come home from Nana’s house!” To which I replied, “So what’s your point? That’s what Nanas do; that’s our job . . . we spoil grandchildren!”
But one thing I will never knowingly do is go against the wishes of my children when it comes to their children. If they are being punished by being grounded from television when it’s time to come to my house, they don’t watch television at my house. If there is something they are forbidden to eat, they don’t eat it at my house. (Although the kids do understand that if their kids want ice cream before bed, they’ll get it unless it is specifically forbidden by Mom and Dad!)
Seriously, though, when grandparents go against our children’s wishes, it makes our kids the “bad guys,” and that should never be! When you obey the rules of their parents, it shows the grandkids that they should obey them, too.
There are so many other lessons my partner – God – has shown me through the years, but it all comes down to this: Being a parent, grandparent or great grandparent is a very complex and difficult job. Fortunately, we don’t have to navigate those waters alone. All we have to do is ask and He’ll guide us through any situation for our good and the good of those we love more than life itself.
Maybe you didn’t have a good parental role model when you were growing up, but when you become a partner with God, you get the best one ever! And even if your parents were wonderful, they will be the first to tell you that they can’t hold a candle to our Abba Father!
Not long after my mother passed away, many years ago, Pat saw me crying and asked if I was OK, to which I replied, “Yes, but now I’ll never have the mother I always wanted.” He never looked up from what he was doing but said, “No, but our kids do!” It was the best compliment I ever got from him, and it wouldn’t have been possible had I not had that “partnership with God.”